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As Michael Cox dropped back to throw the ball, he spotted the first receiver, looked him off and saw another running up the middle of the field.

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“Last year, he never would have looked that first receiver off,” one coach observed as the junior Southridge quarterback joined hundreds at the annual Florida Fire 7-on-7 tryout at North Miami Stadium.

Indeed, last year at this time, Cox was the proverbial “deer in the headlights” as he came over from Miami Sunset after helping lead the Knights to a rare district title and best finish in school history.

Then, after some returning players and the coaching staff left the school, Cox followed his heart and headed down south to play for Southridge – a move that further enhanced his exposure and raised the bar on the field.

Then, a little more than a year later, with Cox at the controls, the Spartans captured the Class 8A state championship; something the school had not accomplished in over 20 years.

While Cox has been challenged and even questioned at times, this tremendous young man continued to work hard, try the best he could and be a manager and not a difference maker.

“This has been great for me,” Cox explained. “I have never backed away from a challenge, and certainly want to be the best teammate I can be. I want to win and will do what it takes to get that done.”

There is simply no denying what Cox has meant to the program over the past year. His touchdown pass to Mark Pope with time running down against Orlando Dr. Phillips proved to be the game-winner, and in the end, silenced many people in the process.

“If I told you that Michael has the best credentials of just any quarterback in the state returning for this next season, you would be shocked,” said Dana Wiley of Prep Films. “He is 21-4, two district titles and a state champion. “Daniel Richardson is the only other and he is pretty special.”

Even with rumors of transfers coming into Southridge, Cox remains optimistic and is ready to help this program defend its state championship.

Whenever South Florida is involved in football, you can guarantee that the talent is very impressive – and that includes 7-on-7 events which founder and administrator Dennis Marroquin hosts yearly to fill out some tremendous teams.

This year, the Fire brand will have three high school level teams in Palm Beach, the main Fire program and the Fire South, which is often loaded with big-time prospects – such as Cox. Also, the 15-and-under team will also bring in some of the top 2020 and 2021 athletes.

While there were so many impressive athletes on display, here are some that caught the eye of the coaches and other prospects on hand:

One of the prospects that have started to gain offseason momentum is St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback Beau Fillichio.

This is someone who has had the chance to grow and mature and he has displayed it so far.

Fillichio’s teammate Elijah Moore has been one of the best for the past two years – and now he’ll get the chance to show how special he is.

Mark Pope, who caught that winning touchdown from Cox in the state title game, was once again one of the elite prospects on the field.

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Chaminade-Madonna received a few key players so far in the offseason, and perhaps none more promising than 6-foot-3, 180-pound receiver Marvin “BJ” Alexander.

Carol City running back and all-around athlete Camron Davis once again did what he does best in 7-on-7 tryouts – dominate and turn heads. The Class of 2018 standout once again was the attraction. Last year, had tried out for all three big 7-on-7 programs before landing with Strong Arm.

Two years ago at a combine, there was a freshman who turned everyone’s head when watching the things he did with the football and the way he dominated. Now, Daquris Wiggins is at Southridge, committed to Miami and has a chance to be one of the best in the country. He is that good and that dominating.

One of the prospects that also started to receive attention last year is Boyd Anderson 2018 tight end Daniel Barker. He was competing in front of some for the first time. Barker, who began his high school career at Chaminade-Madonna, is indeed a football player who could blow up in a major way in 2017.

Two years ago during the offseason, Ivan Thomas started to turn heads at different events he attended – and as this Miami Palmetto receiver starts to compete against some of the elite football players around, he is now one of those who could easily be among the best.

One of the best underclass linemen in South Florida a year ago was Delone “Bo” Scaife. As we watched him from the beginning, it was evident that this talented lineman would be special. This gifted University of Miami commit worked at tight end in the Fire tryout. He made the move last month from Killian to Southridge.

There is no doubt that one of the top players for the Class of 2019 is Doral Academy receiver, Breion Fuller. He is one of those national recruits that everyone has started to keep an eye on. Fuller is a difference maker.

After having the opportunity to watch him play this past season, everyone has to be excited about game-changing wide receiver Tyler Harrell. He will be a senior in 2017.

Miami Southridge really struck gold with 2018 defensive back Traquan Butler, who is actually a tremendous talent that we talked about well over a year ago when he was at Killian. He possesses great cover skills and very athletic.

Class of 2019 standout athlete Akeem Dent (Palm Beach Central) leads an impressive Palm Beach Fire team this year that also included South Broward slot receiver Akeem Hayes (2018), and Chaminade-Madonna prospects in quarterbacks Quinn Dempsey (2018) and Daelen Menard (2019), and receiver Logan Giordano (2018).

The Palm Beach Fire will also boast Palm Beach Lakes standouts Gurvan Hall (2018, Athlete), Tejay Young (2018, DB), Vincent Redmon (2018, DB), Nick Hollis (2018, DB) and Oyeh Lurry-Davis (2018, WR).

7A power Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer also has a few key players on the roster this year in Ced Tucker (2019, RB) and Lubens Ervil 2018, (WR)

Park Vista’s Jake Collins was indeed a very special player, who was physical and talented. This is a 2018 player who will make a difference in the secondary or as a larger receiver.

Collins is joined by high school teammates Atorian Perry (2018, WR/CB), running back Corey Cola, Jr. and John Smith (2018, QB/FS).

Lake Worth has been putting out a number of football talent for a long time and now the Trojans have 2018 receiving prospects Marques Spann and Bryan Henry. Olympic Heights, which has improved greatly over the past few years, provided the Fire with quarterback Anthony Petillo (2018), running back Reis Clark (2018) and 2018 defensive back Mike Nestor.

In addition, the Palm Beach Fire boast 2018 Seminole Ridge receiver Jeremiah Brown, 2018 West Boca receiver Mahari Mesidort, Boca Raton 2018 receiver Rod Evans, Boca Raton Saint John Paul 2019 quarterback Zachary Bohannon, 2018 Clewiston cornerback/receiver Wellesty Madurie and Wellington 2018 receiver William Perez

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2019 – Marcus Barthell, RB, Miami Edison
2018 – Ladarius Burrows, WR, Coconut Creek
2018 – Robert Crockett III, CB, Miami Christopher Columbus
2018 – Tayondric Crowder, Jr., FS, Pompano Blanche Ely
2019 – Darren Davis, Jr., RB, Miami Christopher Columbus
2018 – Michael DiLiello, QB, Cooper City
2018 – Cornelius Doe, DB, Deerfield Beach
2018 – Jordan Dillard, WR, Miami Southridge
2018 – Bailey Finkelberg, WR, Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest
2018 – Lamont Finnie, Jr., WR, Miami Edison
2019 – Demetries Ford, CB, Miami Christopher Columbus
2018 – Johnny Ford, RB, Coral Gables
2018 – Hunter Goetz, S, Pembroke Pines Flanagan
2020 – Carlson Joseph, WR, Coconut Creek
2020 – Derohn King, QB, Sunrise Piper
2018 – Cornelius McCoy, WR/FS, Deerfield Beach
2019 – Christopher McDonald, Jr., DB, Miami Southridge
2019 – Kalani Norris, WR/CB, Miami Christopher Columbus
2018 – Jermaine McMillian, DB, Miami Edison
2018 – Wayne Parrish, WR/S, Coral Springs Taravella
2020 – Presley Pomeranc, CB, Miami Christopher Columbus
2019 – Will Poses, QB, Miami Gulliver Prep
2018 – Andrew Reese, DB, Miami Edison
2020 – Xavier Restrepo, S/WR, Coconut Creek Monarch
2018 – Bryand Rincher, DB, Sunrise Piper
2018 – Gregory Rousseau, WR, Hialeah Champagnat Catholic
2019 – Tyler Scott, S, Fort Lauderdale University School
2019 – Maurice Underwood, QB, Miami Central
2018 – Zayvion Wallace, S, Hollywood McArthur
2018 – Phenol Williams, WR, Miami Carol City
2019 – Demonte Wright, CB, Coconut Creek